The international community needs to work together and collectively to address climate change issues and jointly suggest ways of solving these problems, the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Ms Patricia Butenis said at the weekend.
Speaking an environmental-issues seminar in Colombo hosted by a US university along with local partners, she said national governments must develop plans to reduce carbon emissions, combat overfishing and protect the ocean ecosystems in and around their country’s borders.
Local and provincial authorities must also provide concrete solutions and educational awareness campaigns to increase understanding, Ms Butenis told the 2-day summit at the Science Faculty, Colombo University to facilitate communication on issues of environmental education and stewardship, focusing specially on how these issues affect and impact the regions and people of Sri Lanka. It was hosted by members of Elon University's Periclean Scholar Class of 2011, USA in partnership with the University of Colombo, the United States Embassy - Colombo, the National Science Foundation - Sri Lanka, and Rainforest Rescue International.
Ms Butenis, speaking at the inaugural session, said that though climate change is a global issue, government intervention is not always the solution. “Each and every individual must accept his or her personal role in the environmental crisis and determine to reduce, reuse and recycle in their daily activities,” she said adding that this idea of individual responsibility is exemplified in the ‘Training for Trusteeship’ programme established here in Sri Lanka by retired international justice Christopher Weeramantry together with university students across Sri Lanka.
She said that to allow individuals to put this concept of trusteeship into action the US Embassy awarded 40 small grants of around US $ 10,000 each to local organizations working with or for youth.
She complemented the students of Elon University and said that they are a model of engaged learning, with 88% of Elon students participating in volunteer activities before graduation.
Dr Tom Arcaro, Director of Project Pericles, Elon University said that all the participants at this summit would be aware of many dimensions of the environmental crisis from climate change and pollution of air, land and water, to the precarious drop in bodiversity evidenced by increasingly common extinctions of both flora and fauna species.
He said that the critical environmental crisis the world faces ‘never seems to be the closest fire needing to be put out’ and said that this must change, and they, as informed global citizens, must lead the way.
Dr Arcaro, trying to define a ‘global citizen’, noted that global citizens understand that all humans are born with basic rights, share one planet and thus one fate. They embrace an ideology of human growth and potential based upon the assumption that all global citizens should work toward creating a global social structure wherein all humans are not only allowed to reach their full potentials - intellectual, physical and spiritual – are actively encouraged to do so.
He said that they also honour the ideal that they must live in sustainable harmony with all life forms on the planet.
He said that environmental issues are almost always justice issues: it is the marginalized here in Sri Lanka, in the savannahs of Africa and elsewhere around the world, that feel the most immediate brunt of climate change and said “We in this room who have great privilege bear great responsibility to work with all of our energies both for and with our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate”.
Dr (Ms) Kshanika Hirimburagama, Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo also addressed the opening session.
The US government funded the summit and several Americans (particularly students) travelled to Sri Lanka to attend this summit as they believed it was an exercise important for Sri Lanka and specially for the school children of Sri Lanka as they (US students) are also involved in training school children across the country.